Top 4 obstacles to DevOps adoption and how to successfully eliminate them

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Many organizations want to apply DevOps principles in their organization but they don’t really know what DevOps is, what it requires from the employees, what value it will bring and how to start a DevOps journey. Other have already given DevOps a try but they faced misunderstandings and challenges that slowed them down.

If only there was a way to experiment with DevOps before actually adopting it. Meet The Phoenix Project, the simulation which comes to the rescue of those who want to understand the theory better and transfer it to day to day work environment faster.

We talked with Jan Schilt, co-owner of GamingWorks and speaker at the Microservices Summit about how such a simulation will solve your day to day problems quicker and better.
JAXenter: “The Phoenix Project” is kind of a bible for DevOps practitioners. For those not familiar with Gene Kim’s book, what is its key message?

Jan Schilt: “The Phoenix Project” is a fictionalized story of an IT manager named Bill who has to rescue an over-budget and late IT initiative code-named the Phoenix Project, in a short period of time. IT is dealing with a huge bunch of work. However, inefficient practices mean that this project is in danger. In Gene Kim’s novel, the IT manager Bill transfers his experience of how factories optimize their work to the IT sector.

First, Bill introduces FLOW to the IT team to design from DevOps and start visualizing the work. Once they started using FLOW, the team starts producing work with fewer errors. Next, Bill introduces feedback loops. This means bringing teams together, encouraging them to bring quality back to the source, delivering value to each step in the flow, and to test and give back feedback, etc. Finally, Bill introduces continuous learning and experimenting.

The key message of this book is to start your own journey and start building high performing teams. It’s important to have perspective to make things better and work as a team.

JAXenter: In your session, you will put the Phoenix Project in practice. What exactly will this simulation look like?

Jan Schilt: A key factor for success is continuous learning and experimentation. It’s a driving force for successful teams. So, in this simulation, we will teach participants how this works in a safe and secure environment.

Many teams do not know or are not used to working together as a team. In this simulated environment, teams will learn all the key elements of DevOps in a hands-on environment. They’ll receive a huge workload, have to build their Kanban and flow, have to plan the work and minimize WIP, have standups, retrospective, apply technology like automated testing, and so on. My session will be a real interactive workshop to really understand the basic principles of DevOps.

JAXenter: What are the benefits the participants can gain from this simulation?

Jan Schilt: This simulation lets DevOps happen in a realistic environment. Participants can experiment to gain a much better understanding of how DevOps works. But also, they will begin to understand what it means for their own organizations in the future when they want to start their own journey.

JAXenter: In your experience, what are the main obstacles for a successful DevOps adoption in a company?

Jan Schilt: There are four main obstacles for successfully adopting DevOps in a company.

First, there is a need for real teamwork. We bring together a team of people for a DevOps squad that will deliver value to one value stream for process, customer, and service. Working in a cross-function team is not easy. It requires new skills from all of the team members.

Second, the team must learn how to create real flow in their process. They have to support this flow with good visualization tools. Otherwise, it just will not be as efficient.

Third, a DevOps team must be able to continuously experiment and learn. DevOps is a journey full of uncertainty. We don’t know where it will end. This is very difficult for many people who want procedures and work instructions.

Finally, there is the practical application of Agile, Lean and IT Service Management principles into their teams. Many people know what these management principles are but they have difficulties applying it in real life.

JAXenter: Do you have any tips as to how people can overcome these obstacles?

Jan Schilt: There are a few ways this can be done.

First, train your people in the DevOps basics. There are a lot of DevOps training programs out there, like DevOps Foundations or Fundamentals. However, there are also a few DevOps Masters programs that are extremely useful. These programs teach you about all the details of DevOps on a higher level than the basics. On top of this training, there are practical exercises for experience and to showcase your skills.

Chose one ‘safe’ low-risk value stream, whether it’s process, service, or customer chose a great team of early adopters who like to experiment and start your DevOps journey. Plan enough time for doing and learning. No one is immediately perfect, so leave some time in there for errors. Have regular retrospective sessions, try out new features and just do it. If it works, start new initiatives and let the early adapters coach the other teams.

Using this kind of simulations helps teach employees in a practical way what DevOps is all about and what it means for their own way of working.

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